You are here: Home > Floating lives: Asian diasporas, swingers and homelands

August 30, 2004

Floating lives: Asian diasporas, swingers and homelands

Posted by dogpossum on August 30, 2004 2:18 PM in the category

ok, enough about domestic violence and terrorism. and on to something much more interesting!
globalised media! yes, i'm back in the reading-stuff-for-the-thesis mode. and i'm enjoying "Floating Lives: the Media and Asian Diasporas" (ed Stuart Cunningham and John Sinclair) immensely. i know it's nerdy to admit to loving work books, but i do. i just love this crew. it's media/cultural studies in MY type of style. most of the people involved had something to do with UQ or the Australian Key Centre for Cultural and Media Policy in Brisbane at some point. it seems UQ (or Brisbane, anyway) is THE place for me to be for my work. excellent. i move to Melbourne - the place to be for swing dancing - and what do i discover?


at any rate, these key centre people rock. i lubbs media policy studies, media studies and light-on cultural studies with a practical bent

but really, i do love this book. it's just perfect for me: globalised media. diaspora. communities who're defined not by geographic placement or nationhood, but by their own feelings of 'belonging' to a community that crosses countries. and looking at how they use media.

sound much like swingers? yes indeedy. but even better, sound like fans? oh yes.

Cunningham, Sinclair et al do take care to make the point that they're not discussing being Asian as being somehow an 'essential' definer of identity or community in diasporas:

"every diaspora treated in this book is seen as a collocation of class, ethnic, origination, education, work and financial configurations, whose status as a ‘community’ is the product of strategic unities and alliances, sometimes engendered more from without than within, rather than ethnic ‘essences’” (Sinclair and Cunningham 13).

So they see community as being a more complex confluence of different factors, of which ‘being Asian’ is one. Their model (and this comment) is encouraging: I’m jumping off from here, using their methods for analysing media use by members of Asian diasporic communities in Australia. The key point, here, is that community membership is not designated by geographic location or by national boarders. I like to use this approach for discussing swing dancers.

Here, swingers around the world are part of a global community, membership of which is defined by interest and cultural practice. As well as media use. Though various swing communities in different countries are quite unique – localised – they are still part of a more global community, in that they share interests, customs – class, education, work, financial configurations – and their global community is shaped by strategic unities and alliances.
Swingers are, particularly, made a diaspora through their community’s being structured around shared cultural practices and ideology, ritual, tradition and ideology, despite geographic distance. They are diasporic in that they are also somehow outside, and looking ‘back’ to a specific ‘homeland' from another 'place'.

Sinclair and Cunningham discuss the ways in which diasporas are marked – to varying degrees - by their “fetishisation of the homeland” (Sinclair and Cunningham 20). Swingers are quite definitely involved in fetishisation of a ‘homeland’ in their attention to 1930s New York – Harlem. And then, perhaps, Australian swingers are also looking to a ‘homeland’ in their attention to contemporary Sweden or America (and their local swing dance communities).
Sinclair and Cunningham are referring to a ‘homeland’ – as a country - from which groups and families and individuals journeyed out to other countries to settle or work or escape. In swing culture, we can read Harlem as the ‘homeland’ from which all swing dance culture moved out into the rest of the world. It is also the homeland to which contemporary swingers journey in pilgrimage, to see historic sites (the Savoy Ballrooms former location), to learn from swing dance ‘gurus’.

Just as Sinclair and Cunningham frame ‘homelands’ as being as much an ideological construct or idealised ‘memory’, swingers construct a Harlem of a specific time and place, with attendant social and cultural milieu. The Harlem to which swing dancers journey, or harken to as homeland, is the Harlem of the 1930s, birthplace of lindy hop, swinging jazz and ‘swing culture’.

The ‘homeland’ – as an ideological construct – is also a site for various ideological contestations and discursive practices. Definitions of ‘homeland’ are marked by ideological disputes, or/and by markers of power and discursive influence.

So that's what i'm reading for work at the moment. it raaaawks. so much so that i'm working on the weekend as well as mid-week. which breaks my cardinal rule.

Sinclair, John and Stuart Cunningham. "Diasporas and the Media." Floating Lives: The Media and Asian Diasporas . Ed. Stuart Cunningham and John Sinclair. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2000. 1- 34.

Posted by dogpossum on August 30, 2004 2:18 PM in the category